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Seeds of hope: Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank celebrates 20 years with 2.4 billion seeds banked - Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

2.4 billion seeds have been collected by scientists in huge global conservation effort

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB), the world’s largest wild plant seed bank and home to some of the planet’s most important natural resources today celebrates its 20th anniversary. The seed bank, opened in November 2000, and located at Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, acts as an ‘insurance policy’ for rare, threatened and useful plants, so that they can be protected for generations to come.

pickup with door open stopped on gravel road in moutains with people crouched in the verge gathering seeds.
Sudden stop for Senecio adenophyllus seed collection, 4700m. Peru. Credit Daniel Montesinos Tubée.

20 years on from its opening, the MSB represents the largest wild seed conservation project in the world, with 2.4 billion seeds from 39,681 species, sourced from 190 countries and territories. When counting the collections held across the global partnership, the MSB and its partners have helped protect 46,664 species – 16% of the world’s seed-bearing plants.
Created at the turn of the new millennium, this ‘Noah’s ark’ for plants, has never played such a critical role. As the planet faces a biodiversity crisis, with two-fifths of the world’s plants at risk of disappearing, the MSB, along with its global partners are absolutely vital to keeping vulnerable and economically important plants safe. Whilst the Norwegian seed bank Svalbard stores seeds of the world’s crops, the MSB banks wild plants, including some of the relatives of our major food crops – these seeds make a vital contribution to global targets such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, in particular goal 2: zero hunger, goal 13: climate action and goal 15: life on land.

Posted on: 20 November 2020

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